JAKARTA, Indonesia – Airplane manufacturer Boeing said Wednesday that it had issued a bulletin to airlines worldwide warning of erroneous readings from flight-control software on its planes after an almost-new Lion Air jetliner crashed into the sea soon after takeoff, killing the 189 people on board.
Boeing, which is assisting in an investigation into what went wrong on the Oct. 29 crash of one of its new 737 Max 8 jets, said it had issued a bulletin on Tuesday as "part of its usual process."
The bulletin warned airline operators on what to do if they receive false readings from flight-control software that measures the angle of the plane and how to alert flight crews of the procedure they have to follow.
The bulletin is the first indication that an error with the aircraft's system may have caused the Lion Air flight to crash. Instead of a smooth takeoff from Jakarta on Monday, the plane's altitude fluctuated dramatically and increased in speed before nose-diving into the Java Sea 13 minutes later.
Indonesian investigators have recovered the plane's flight data recorder, which showed the plane's airspeed indicator malfunctioned on its last four flights.
"The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee has indicated that Lion Air Flight 610 experienced erroneous input from one of its AOA (Angle of Attack) sensors," Boeing said. A misreading in the sensor can cause the plane to dive suddenly.
Indonesian investigators said Wednesday that an AOA sensor on the jet had been replaced the day before the doomed flight, on Oct. 28, when a pilot flying the same aircraft on a different route, from Bali to Jakarta, reported problems with it. The pilot on the crashed Lion Air flight had asked shortly after takeoff to return to the airport in Jakarta, but lost contact with air traffic controllers afterward.
The two Indonesian airlines that fly the Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, national carrier Garuda Airlines and Lion Air, which operates 10 of these planes, both declined to comment. Indonesian officials say that all 11 of such aircraft have been tested for airworthiness and have been declared safe to fly.
On Wednesday, the Indonesian transportation safety committee said it would re-create the flight to see what role the possibly malfunctioning sensor may have played in the crash. Meanwhile, search operations continued off the coast of Jakarta.